What Can I Give My Rabbit For Arthritis?

Updated November 28, 2020

You’re about to see what happens when a pet species isn’t big business.

Our page on treating arthritis in dogs shows you lots of choices.
Our page on treating arthritis in cats shows you a few choices.
There is no registered treatment for arthritis in rabbits.

That doesn’t stop us though. All rabbits that live to old age have some degree of arthritis. In my experience, they all do better on treatment.

Old age, by the way, is over ten years. Most rabbits don’t live that long due to a combination of poor housing and poor diet. However, if you look after your rabbit properly it’s totally normal to reach these lifespans.

Symptoms of Arthritis in Rabbits

Despite the pain, signs are usually vague and can be just one of the following:

  • Reduced jumping height or ability
  • Reluctance to use stairs
  • More time spent resting
  • Objection to handling
  • Changes in litter box use
  • Reduced activity
  • Changes in resting areas
  • A poorly groomed coat
  • Posture change
  • Faeces stuck to the bottom, or flystrike
  • Bumblefoot or sore hocks
  • Weakness in the hind legs: read other causes of back leg problems in rabbits here.

I find that most good rabbit owners will bring it to my attention, not the other way around. Look at the rabbit pictured above for example. You can see:

  • faecal staining around the rear caused by not sitting properly to poop
  • the pink colour of a sore hock caused by prolonged pressure
  • an abnormal posture

Treatment of Rabbit Arthritis

So let’s get these rabbits feeling and moving better.

Home Care

Before talking about medication, it’s important to not forget lifestyle changes. Food and water need to be put in easily reached places. Litter boxes need shallow sides so that it isn’t painful to get in or out. Sometimes slippery floors need carpet runners to add grip.

Nails will need trimming more often and hard to reach areas of the coat may need brushing to prevent matting.

Weight Loss

Weight loss is incredibly important for arthritic cats and dogs but less so for rabbits. That’s because the diet that encourages a long life is also the one that has been shown to promote a healthy weight.

Most old rabbits I see are not fat at all, but if they were, I would recommend following our rabbit feeding advice.


The most important arthritis drug for rabbits is meloxicam. It is a very effective anti-inflammatory and should make an obvious difference for rabbits in pain. It’s also very easy to give as it comes as a palatable liquid.

A word of warming, though: the effective dose of meloxicam for rabbits is thought to be 1mg/kg, which is ten times the dog dose. If you are giving a lower dose, you might reject meloxicam as being useless without giving it a chance to help.

I and many other rabbit vets use meloxicam daily without seeing adverse effects. I have also had many elderly patients on meloxicam for many years without seeing a problem. For greatest efficacy it’s probably best given in the morning as rabbits may metabolise the drug quite quickly.

Tramadol & Gabapentin

I have also used tramadol in a handful of rabbits. I reserve it for cases when meloxicam alone is no longer enough.  It appears to give improvement, but it’s hard to tell. The latest thinking is to try another drug called gabapentin instead. I have yet to try this personally but I don’t expect miracles.

It’s very important for rabbit owners to understand that if they choose to use meloxicam, gabapentin or tramadol, they do so at their own risk. Although these drugs appear to work well, they are untested and we cannot guarantee their safety or even predict what might go wrong.

I do not believe there is enough evidence to recommend any other treatments. I hope I have given you enough to help your rabbit and would welcome your thoughts.

Have something to add? Comments are welcome below and will appear within 24 hours.
By Andrew Spanner BVSc(Hons) MVetStud, a vet in Adelaide, Australia. The information provided here is not intended to be used as a substitute for going to the vet. If your pet is unwell, please seek veterinary attention.


12 Replies to “What Can I Give My Rabbit For Arthritis?”

  1. Have ypu heard of using Adequan in rabbits? I have an approximate 11 year old rabbit with arthritis. I have been using Metacam PRN but wasnt forsure if Adequan cpuld be used in additon. I am an LVT but work at a mixed aninal practice that sees dogs, cats and farm animals mainly.

  2. what are your thoughts about using trimeth/sulfa liquid? 1.7 ml every 12 hours for 10 days? Does/would this help for arthritis?

      1. The vet took x rays and said my rabbit had arthritis in spots and prescribed the above medication and said it would help with the inflammation from the arthritis. My vet is supposed to be an exotic/rabbit knowledgeable veterinary doctor. I need to know if this medication is safe as my rabbit had a seizure today after 3 days of use of the above medication.

  3. Hi Andrew,
    What are your thoughts on Meloxicam in a geriatric rabbit? Our rabbit is on this drug for arthritis but has recently had a quick onset kidney issue. Wondering if Meloxicam is contributing to the renal failure, helping it, or not making any difference from that perspective. Conflicting research papers online.

    1. Hi Nick. I’m not aware of the literature, but meloxicam is commonly used in quite high doses in rabbits without kidney problems, so it’s hard to say if it’s connected in your case. If you continue on with it the main thing is to monitor the kidney function closely.

  4. My vet recommended a course of Synovan in addition to Meloxicam. Can you provide any info regarding that treatment?

  5. Hello.
    Thank you for your comments included herein. They have been valuable.
    Given your comments re treatment protocols (for arthritis in rabbits) with Meloxicam at 1mg/kg, would you be able to hazard a guess as regards a dosage regimen for Ibuprofen as a reasonable substitute? Intended for a male Flemish rabbit of around 3.5kg and around five years of age.
    Many thanks for any assistance.


    1. Hi Alex. If I had any usage information about ibuprofen I would have included it above. NSAIDs in animals are extremely dangerous drugs; you can only use the ones that have been shown to be safer. Even then you have to be very careful.

  6. Laser therapy is now a wonderful
    Option for our Lola, age 7. She’s part Flemish bunny, indoor only and weighing 9 lbs. It helps with discomfort and mobility at this time.

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